Advice - Old woman wants to paddle - which inflatable or foldable?

I have a kayak I love - a kevlar Looksha IV Necky sea kayak. I can practically steer it with my hips. But alas, I am older and singler than when I got it and I can’t get it to the water by myself. I want to get an inflatable or a foldable so I can get on the water on my own. I am probably spoiled by the responsiveness of my sea kayak. Is there a lightweight excellent quality inflatable or foldable that will approximate my Necky experience?

Probably not. The folders that may approximate the performance (like Trak) are no lighter. The inflatables won;t be even close in performance.

One option would be to look at wooden kayaks. They generally are at least 10 pounds lighter than kevlar. If you also went for one that is a bit shorter, that would also reduce weight.

Other direction would be to look at tools that would help you use the boat you have. Ways to assist the loading and unloading on your vehicle. Ways to move it from vehicle to water. That type of thing.


Hi Phyllis,

I hear ya. I’m sure you will get some good suggestions in this post. I recently posted a similar question and got some great ideas - things I wouldn’t have considered, or even known about. I wound up getting a 32 pound surf ski, and a 33 pound tandem canoe, but here’s the post that helped me so much:

I had a folding Klepper kayak for many years while living in a NYC apartment. It was wonderful, but heavy, and a lot of work to make it, use it, and then tear it down for a few hours on a lake. Good luck! I’m sure you will find something that will work.

1 Like

Do you need a deck?
Do you paddle in the ocean?
if the answers are no the splution may be a pack canoe
Essentially a deckless kayak
Weights run 12-25 lbs
Hornbeck boats
Placid Boatworks
are some of the makers of pack canoes
Some are very fast


I just turned 70 and am forced to admit I am an old woman, but I had already equipped myself with lightweight boats so I will give you several suggestions. Having a kayak under 30 pounds is very liberating!

Kayakmedic (above) suggested a solo canoe, which is one good option, but will be a different experience than the kayak you are used to. I recently acquired a 36 year old Curtis Lady Bug solo canoe which is only 32 pounds and very easy for me to load on the car roof. Some of the pack canoe models KM suggested are even lighter. An advantage I am finding for an older body is the greater range of seating (or kneeling) position possible in the canoe. But it requires learning some new techniques. I do use it with a kayak paddle most of the time, but have a single blade that I am trying to master.

If you are looking to replicate the usage range and performance of your Looksha, let me correct Peter-CA’s comment on folding kayaks. There ARE folders that are less than half the weight of a hardshell. I have several PakBoat folders and they are all under 30 pounds. One is only 24. You can buy a Quest 150 from them for about $1400, shipped free. It can be used with or without the deck and weighs 27 pounds without the deck and 31 with it. At 15’ long and 24" wide it is comparable to your Looksha. I can honestly say my own Quest 135 (a slightly smaller version they made at first) performs favorably to that of my hardshell 15’ sea kayak. Set-up takes about 30 minutes, but I usually just leave it set up all season unless I am traveling. These pack down small enough to take as checked regular baggage on airline flights and I took my 24 pound 12’ Pakboat Puffin to England with me 3 years ago that way.

The other option would be a Sea Eagle Razorlite 393. I have no personal experience with the model but these inflatables get consistently high praise from people with a lot of kayak experience for being fast and efficient due to the drop stitch hull construction which holds high pressure to be very rigid (most inflatables are slow due to being too bulbous and even sagging under operator weight). Price would be comparable to a PakBoat. Advantage is that set up is about 10 or 15 minutes. Disadvantage is that it takes twice that time to dry off and fold it back up when you go to deflate it. And if you don’t dry them off before storage they can get funky.

Photos below of 3 of my boats, the 32 pound Lady Bug canoe, the yellow 28 pound Pakboat Quest 135 and my smaller red Pakboat Puffin 12 (still sold as the Puffin Saco). The Puffins are smaller and wider than the Quests and more of a recreational style than a touring kayak like your Looksha. Cost around $1100.





You can also build your own folding or inflatable kayak from free instructions on the Yostwerks site. Many people around the world have successfully accomplished these projects for a few hundred dollars and minimal previous experience with tools. Check out the galleries on the site to see some of their cleverly made boats, including one a nurse built using discarded aluminum crutches to construct the frame!

1 Like

If an open boat works for your needs then this one is a fine choice. I’d suggest the normal Kevlar fusion lay-up at 24 pounds…the expedition Kevlar is only needed if you plan to hit rocks hard and often. They make lots of models but if you like performance and already know how to paddle this could be a great choice.

1 Like

I gave up my Tempest 175 and considered getting a Stellar S14S rec, surfski. Reviews say it is fairly quick. The Advantage build is about 34lbs. The same hull is available as a kayak. I liked the open cockpit.

I think an interesting question to think about is what are the issues that you face with the Necky that make sticking with that boat a no-go? Maybe the solution isn’t another boat, but a different rack setup or wheels, or who knows? What parts are you finding difficult/impossible?


Ah no Willowleaf. None of the boats I mentioned are traditional solo canoes. They are all sit on or near the bottom pack canoes. Paddled just like a kayak. Double blade. Often the double blade from a sea kayak will do in them too. No need for 260 or 270 cm double blades.

Not at all like the Curtis Ladybug.

I did not pull up all the links nor photos as I was riding gunshot on Northern Maine roads… Which have pavement with potholes. An essay was not in the works.

My kayak is fairly light and I can lift it some. But not onto my car - a Chevy Tahoe. I had a Thule hullivator and it was wonderful. I could hoist my kayak onto the hullivator and then slide it up and over. But the big SUV combined with the hullivator made my car too high to fit into a parking garage, including my own. And that was often problematic. And one evening I misjudged an overhang and that was the end of the hullivator.

My Tahoe is on its last legs and I have to get another car - depending what I get it could make things easier… But even with a smaller car I wonder if a hullivator would make parking in a garage a problem?

I can lift my boat - but it is not easy. It’s over 17 feet and awkward. I am 72 and it’s getting harder.


Thank you

Almost 73. Thank you for all your good ideas. I don’t want to give up doing the things I love. But my abilities are not quite what they once were and I want to be realistic and prepared for what’s ahead. And it seems I am running out of companions who want to join me so I am looking for ways to be independent. And keep going!

1 Like

KM – I didn’t suggest that my Lady Bug was a pack canoe, just mentioned it as a light solo with which I had some experience. I do know the difference between a pack and what I have – but BOTH are solo canoes, are they not?

I originally started with a folding kayak when I got into touring 18 years ago, primarily for the travel aspect rather than the weight. But I have come to appreciate the lightness of them, as well as the comfort and the way they feel in the water.

I remember one of the fellows who worked at Pakboat’s US office in New Hampshire telling me that there was a local woman in her 80’s who had a small Pakboat kayak (like my red Puffin) and every Spring she would bring the bag to the shop and the guys would set it up for her for the season and tie it to her car. In the Fall she would bring it back and they would disassemble and pack it down for her.

As I had mentioned the newer Pakboats give you the option of being able to paddle as an open boat, so if you eventually have mobility issues that make climbing into a cockpit troublesome, it would be easier to enter and exit the boat with the deck removed.

Here is a video of a young man paddling one of the Pakboat Quests so you can see that it really can perform like a hardshell. I find mine are actually more stable in rough water than my hardshell kayak because the flexible skin absorbs some of the wave inertia rather than bouncing off of it.

1 Like

Cool! And I see an Oru on the water too.

1 Like

Are you able to get it rooftop and down? Do you have wheels? There are SO many different styles, some work better than others. The cheap ones not so much but if you’re on even terrain they work well enough. @NotThePainter purchased us some that work tremendously well . It’s made it so much easier to get my husband’s boat, which is of similar weight, to the water. There’s also a thing that you can affix to your transport system that will allow you to life only half the boat’s weight at a time. It’s how we used to get kayaks on the top of our lifted Jeep. Or if you want to go the pricey route, Hullivators are insanely easy to use. So, basically, what I’m telling you is there are options out there that mean you won’t have to get a new boat and they won’t cost a pile of money.

Sorry to hear about your Hullavator’s demise. I carry my 17-foot kayak in a Hullavator, but take off the cradles when not in use. They only weigh 15# each and it’s very easy to do.

Yup. I have an electric car and the efficiency data immediately shows a hit if I drive along with those antlers out int the breeze.

1 Like

In my opinion, holding onto a 17-foot, 58lb kayak doesn’t make sense for a 72-year-old woman because (a) the struggle of handling it will only get worse and (b) there are much better choices.

Tips for older women (or men):

(1) Shorter, lighter kayak. Consider thermoformed plastic. I recommend the Delta 12.10 or 14 and the Hurricane 135. I don’t think you will miss your 17’ Looksha; you will wonder why you didn’t downsize earlier.

(2) All carbon paddle: Werner Kalliste or, if you find yourself losing strength, the lighter Werner Athena.

(3) Subcompact car and load from the rear onto Thule 883 Glide & Set saddles: (almost always available on Craigslist). When you load from the rear you’re never lifting the entire weight of the kayak. If you load from the rear you should be able to handle up to about 45 lbs. without too much trouble. It’s an art, though, to avoid scratching your car.

(4) Shorter, slower trips with a long break in the middle.

(5) A decent kayak cart.

With all these modifications combined you should be able to continue kayaking if your shoulders are holding up.

I had a good-quality inflatable once. Inflating, deflating, drying, and folding it up was a drag and I wouldn’t do it again. As mentioned, they get very funky if you don’t dry them very carefully after each use, especially under the side tubes, which requires deflation.

1 Like